sexta-feira, 31 de outubro de 2008

The pros and cons of netbooks

Reader Tom writes: What can you tell me about the "mini-laptops" or netbooks that seem to be popping up all over the place? My wife saw one that sold for about $350 with built-in Wi-Fi and she says she wants one now. I have yet to see one in person, so I have no idea if they are worth the money.
Yeah, what's the deal with all the netbooks?

If you're unfamiliar with the devices, here's the pitch: You get a small, cheap laptop with a basic set of features, limited performance, and often a small hard drive (or an even smaller amount of flash storage). Some netbooks run Windows (usually XP), some don't. And that's the sell. The emphasis: cheap.

Prices typically range from about $300 to $500, but there are exceptions on either side. As with standard laptops, the more you pay, the more you get... but at some point you get into the realm of those regular laptops, and the appeal of the netbook fades considerably.

There are numerous pros and cons to the netbook phenomenon that should impact your decision whether to buy one. First, some pros: They're cheap. Oh, I mentioned that. But they're also very portable and generally more rugged than you'd expect, which makes them great for people looking for a second laptop to use as a "getaway" computer. Just toss it in your bag and head out for that adventure weekend. If it gets lost, stolen, or broken, you're out a much smaller investment than if it had been your $2,000 Mac that you dropped into a ravine.

Now for the flipside. Netbooks are, again, cheap. To get prices down, sacrifices must be made. That means dog-slow processors, no graphics ability, (usually) no optical drive, and minimal RAM. Netbooks won't work as an emergency DVD player for the kids. Battery life is often poor (with a few exceptions). Many netbooks look more like toys than real laptops, so they aren't appropriate for business users. And the smaller the keyboard gets, the harder it is to type. On machines with an 8.9-inch screen (the smallest and typical standard among netbooks), touch-typing is pretty much impossible. Then there's the OS issue. While some netbooks run Windows, many run Linux. Whether that's a pro or con depends on your opinion of Microsoft, but many users dislike having to learn a new operating system and instead prefer the familiarity of Windows.

Should you buy one? Tough question, but I highly recommend that if you do, you consider a model with a 10-inch screen, which will give you a less cramped experience on both the eyes and the fingers (thanks to the bigger keyboard). My two favorite models: The Asus Eee PC 1000H and the new Lenovo IdeaPad S10, both with 10.2-inch screens and Windows XP. Both are available for under $500. The Eee has much longer battery life (but weighs half a pound more), while the IdeaPad has better performance and a larger hard drive. Take your pick.

2 comentários:

Anônimo disse...

Who Needs a TV? I’m Watching on a Laptop

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
ABC says about 8 percent of its viewers watch a delayed showing of a hit like “Desperate Housewives” online instead of on television.

Published: December 3, 2008

I HAVE been compared to many things in my life; never, though, to Sasquatch.

But that is what Alan Wurtzel, president of research at NBC Universal, suggested when I told him I had gotten rid of my television set last year and started watching “30 Rock” and “CSI” on my laptop instead. “I hear about people like you,” he said, a hint of skepticism in his voice. “But the notion that people have forsaken watching cable and network television is an urban myth.”

Then he hissed what sounded vaguely like an insult.

“You probably read.”

Yes, I do enjoy The New Yorker or a John Irving novel from time to time. But just because I don’t have a television set doesn’t mean I don’t crave “Gossip Girl” and obsess over whether Serena will (finally!) get back together with Dan. It’s just that I don’t have a large television in my living room and a monthly payment to make to my cable company. I don’t need one: the major networks and many other broadcasters have made it easy to find their shows free online.

Most Americans still watch shows primarily on their televisions. I’ll concede that point to Mr. Wurtzel. But there is much to suggest that watching shows online is more than just a passing fancy. The Internet has proved to be an excellent promotional vehicle. NBC says 7 out of 10 viewers were spurred to watch some shows on television only after sampling them first online. At ABC, 8 percent of viewers they track — or about one out of every 12 people — watch network shows solely online.

Consider the following. My friend Louise uses a projector hooked up to her laptop to watch “Lost” on a white wall in her living room. My 24-year-old niece never owned a television set until I gave her mine. Now she uses it for DVDs and watches “America’s Next Top Model” online. And it’s not just for the cosmotini set. A 40-something executive I know watched the last presidential debate between John McCain and Barack Obama on his home computer.

Of course, my house wasn’t always television free. When I lived in Los Angeles, I had cable but was rarely home to catch my favorite shows. I paid extra for HBO but only to watch “Entourage.” Unlike other friends, I never subscribed to TiVo, knowing I would feel guilty if I let shows stack up.

The funny thing is, despite not having a television, I actually watch more network programming than I did when I had cable. The difference is that I am more selective. No more flipping channels just to see what’s on, the television equivalent of a one-night stand. Instead I am in a committed relationship.

For network television shows the best places to start are their home Web sites, including,, and, where shows are posted usually within 24 hours of being shown on television., in my experience, is one of the simplest to use. It was a pioneer in putting shows online, although stingy in the early days because it didn’t want to share its toys with other sites. also demands viewers be engaged, requiring them to click a button to continue watching the program after an ad ends. It is a deceptively smart strategy: I was forced to sit through a 30-second commercial — and click — to find out whether Mike Delfino actually died from smoke inhalation on “Desperate Housewives.” It’s only 30 seconds I figured (and I can watch the countdown) which kept me in my seat.

To save time, I usually stay away from sites like,, or AOL. Quite simply, there is little there to entice me. Each has a similar syndicate of already-released movies and television shows, and can be confusing if you are not sure what to look for. The exception is, which offers much of the same content, but with a more user-friendly setup.

Of course there is a plethora of sites with pirated content, but I don’t go to those because I don’t want to get busted.

Recently I was talking with Quincy Smith, the president of CBS Interactive, who wanted me to visit the CBS channel on YouTube. But it was so cumbersome to find that Mr. Smith had to guide me on the phone as I sat in front of my laptop. MGM plans to offer movies there, too, but the list is not comprehensive.

The one standout is, a joint venture of NBC and Fox. It is well organized and simple to use. (Even Mr. Smith called it “the gold standard.”) It not only has current shows like “The Office,” “The Simpsons,” “24,” and “Heroes,” but a trove of classics like the original “Battlestar Galactica,” “Married With Children” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

The site, too, like others, has cable shows including the quirky “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.” Quite honestly, I never watched “The Daily Show” when I owned a television; I discovered it on Hulu. I can almost say the same for “Saturday Night Live,” which I gave up watching in the 1990s. During election season, though, I eagerly checked Hulu for both shows to see what I might have missed.

Of course, it wouldn’t be television without a blooper or two. So many online “Gossip Girl” fans showed up to watch last season’s shows, they threatened to crash As a result the CW banned the show online, hoping viewers instead would watch it on their televisions. Fans protested, though, and the show reappeared online, much to my delight and that of my 14-year-old neighbor who agrees that Jenny Humphrey’s new model friend, Agnes, is a bad influence.

Then there’s iTunes. Apple’s media store has been selling TV shows for three years now, and buying is easy to do. The problem I have with iTunes is that you have to pay for the shows in order to watch them. With so many legal ways to get shows free, there’s little incentive for me to pay unless it’s something I can’t stream, like “Mad Men” or “Entourage.” And yes, while a series like “Lost” may require multiple viewings to fully appreciate them, do I really need to own episodes of “Two and a Half Men”?

Movies, too, pose a problem for entertainment companies who might want to put them on their sites. On Hulu and others, there are a number free — “Ordinary People” and “Men in Black” among them — but none are current.

“That’s a whole different business for us,” said Albert Cheng, a digital media executive at ABC. “We are still trying to figure out if there is a movie audience.” I am a dinosaur in this regard, so buying a $10 DVD at the Virgin Megastore and playing it on my computer works fine until downloading or streaming movies becomes easier.

While watching shows online works for me, I know it is not for everyone. Shows don’t appear until the next day, a deal killer for the truly obsessed. And it is hard to find live sports events (or delayed for that matter) online, particularly if it is a big game.

Besides, movies and sports events have more appeal when viewed on a large screen — that’s what big-screen TV is made for. No one is going to mistake their 13-inch laptop screen for a 50-inch high-definition plasma. I recently watched David Lean’s eye candy “Lawrence of Arabia” on Hulu and ached to experience it on my brother-in-law’s home theater in his den.

Speaking of him, I asked him recently if he would ever watch his beloved San Francisco 49ers football team, or any show for that matter, on a magazine-size laptop. He looked at me, incredulous. “Are you serious?” he asked. “Does anybody really do that?”

Mr. Wurtzel is probably smiling.

Anônimo disse...

Major flaw revealed in Internet Explorer; users urged to switch

The major press outlets are abuzz this morning with news of a major new security flaw that affects all versions of Internet Explorer from IE5 to the latest beta of IE8. The attack has serious and far-reaching ramifications -- and they're not just theoretical attacks. In fact, the flaw is already in wide use as a tool to steal online game passwords, with some 10,000 websites infected with the code needed to take advantage of the hole in IE.

Virtually all security experts (as well as myself) are counseling users to switch to any other web browser -- none of the others are affected, including Firefox, Chrome, and Opera -- at least for the time being, though Microsoft has stubbornly said it "cannot recommend people switch due to this one flaw." Microsoft adds that it is working on a fix but has offered no ETA on when that might happen. Meanwhile it offers some suggestions for a temporary patch, including setting your Internet security zone settings to "high" and offering some complicated workarounds. (Some reports state, however, that the fixes do not actually work.)

Expedient patching or switching are essential. Security pros fear that the attack will soon spread beyond the theft of gaming passwords and into more criminal arenas, as the malicious code can be placed on any website and can be adapted to steal any password stored or entered using the browser. It's now down to the issue of time: Will Microsoft repair the problem and distribute a patch quickly enough to head off the tsunami of fraud that's about to hit or will it come too late to do any good?

Meanwhile, I'll reiterate my recommendation: Switch from Internet Explorer as soon as you can. You can always switch back once the threat is eliminated.

Links for other browsers to try: Firefox Chrome Safari Opera